Lisa Runs on Ramen

— running 26.2 and having foodie adventures too!


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Beast of Burden Summer 100, Marathon #28, first 100! (8/18/12)

Just a week ago, I was on my way up to Lockport, NY, nervous for my very first attempt at the 100-mile distance. Now, I can proudly say that I achieved my goal, finishing the Beast of Burden Summer 100 in 28:23:48. However, it was not as simple as getting from Point A to Point B. It required about eight months of training and running three ultramarathons in two months to give me the confidence to toe the starting line with a whole bunch of hardcore ultrarunners. I was so inspired in recent weeks by my friends’ finishes in the IronMan NYC US Championships (Warren, Steve and Leong) and sub-24 hour 100 mile runs (Otto and Michelle) that I wanted to bring my A-game on race day.

On Friday, I took a day off from work to take the 8-hour bus trip from NYC to Buffalo. Marco’s friends Jim and Beth hosted us in their beautiful home a short drive from the race’s start. Jim designed and built the home himself! I could feel the good vibes around this weekend already. Jim is an ultrarunner too, and both him and Beth volunteered for this year’s race. FYI—this race has the best volunteers and aid stations ever. You’ll see why in a moment. We had an informal carbo-loading meet up with other runners at DeFlippo’s, where I had their spaghetti and meatballs and garlic cheesy bread. Can’t go wrong with that!

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Marathon Maniacs and me at the start line.

I had a good night’s sleep and at 7:00am I was up preparing for the 10:00am race start. Since I wasn’t planning to sleep during the race, I needed all the rest that I could get! There was a lot to prep—organizing my two drop bags with favorite foods, Nuun, Gatorade, sunscreen, Vaseline, etc. for availability at the start/finish and the 12.5 mile turnaround point.  I picked up my goody bag and discovered it had awesome stuff–a sling backpack, a full-size jar of almond butter, a headlamp, lip balm, ankle light, and some samples. The lights will come in handy for future ultramarathons and Ragnar Relays! The course was 4 loops of a 25-mile out and back course along the Erie Canal towpath. The surface was crushed limestone and you had views of the water the whole time.

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Here’s the beautiful Erie Canal towpath. Although the pic doesn’t show it, it was sunny and shade-free the whole way. We lucked out with the weather–76F the first day and about 80F the next day.

I said hi to Carol at the start, and was happy to see Benny was a pacer. Good to see a friendly face in these parts. I also got to say hello to Valmir Nunes, the Brazilian ultramarathon phenom who is a world-class runner. We conversed a bit–he understands some English and my Spanish and I understand some of his Portuguese, lol. He was very nice. Turns out my coworker knows his daughter too–what a small world! Since the race is so long, I figured it’s best told in bullet points and feelings by loop. Brace yourself.

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Ahh, the first loop. Those were the happy times. (Photo credit: Ben Tam)

The first loop (Miles 1-25):

-My body was feeling good, since this was just a marathon, right?

-I was cheering on each runner I saw, including the 50-milers.

– Still noticing how beautiful the scenery was. There was NO shade on the course though. It was 76F but felt like 80F.

-Aid stations were stocked with sno-cones (from a legit Sno Cone Machine), grilled cheese sandwiches, Heed, Hammer gels, and watermelon slices. Aid Station 1 was at Gasport, mile 7, and the second Aid Station was at Middleport at the 12.5 mile turnaround. Station #2 was staffed by Beth (nice to see a familiar face!), and there were Little Debbie snacks like Pecan spins and zebra cakes. My favorites were the frozen watermelon and strawberry kebabs. Yummy!

-Indoor bathrooms at Mile 12.5. Amazing!

– Ran a bit with my friend Jackie O. and her friend Caroline.

– My 25-mile split was about 5:15. It was a little faster than 5:30, my planned split.

The second loop (Miles 26-50):

          I was starting to settle into a rhythm, running 25 minutes and taking 5-minute walking breaks, or running 15 minutes and taking 2-minute walking breaks when I was particularly tired. I ran around a 11:30-12:00 easy conversation pace.

          Halfway into this loop I started running with a Marathon Maniac named Andy and my friend Marco. We started playing word/mental games to pass the time, like “First World Problems.”

– about mile 40, bugs started coming out en masse (mayflies, moth-like things, gnats galore). Couldn’t talk much anymore because we needed to keep our mouths shut.

– It started to get dark. Good thing we had our headlamps (Marco and Andy) and flashlight (me).

– I ran a personal best for 50 miles, about 12:10! My previous personal best was 12:44 for a 50-miler on road.

– I had Jim (our host and volunteer extraordinaire) take this photo of me at mile 50 when I reached the aid station. He shook his head in disbelief at my energy. I was feeling GOOD.

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Halfway done and feeling good! PR for 50 miles! 

Third Loop, miles 51-75. Utter darkness.

– It was so dark that I couldn’t see anything beyond my headlamp, except stars.

– Marco patiently walked with me. We walked most of the loop, not gonna lie.

– Stomach issues at mile 55. Uh-oh. Time to lay off the GUs. They’re not made to sit in your stomach beyond a marathon. I was taking one an hour, no wonder I felt sick.

– We reach Gasport at mile 57 where I got warm pizza and food. And warm lentil soup. It was the best thing I ever tasted.

– At the turnaround point, I really needed a stretch-out massage because my hip was stiffening up. It was an awful feeling. I could barely run. The massage therapist stretched me out and it helped a little.

– I needed any kind of motivation at this point. This was the lowest I had been all day. We were in the aid station for almost 15 minutes due to our food break and stretching. Marco very kindly waited for me.

– At mile 63, Marco and I started feeling SUPER tired. It was about 2am at this point. We sang Disney songs loudly to keep ourselves awake. “Tale as old as time…true as it can be…la la la la la…” It was silly but it lifted my spirits so much. I remembered feeling triumphant that all the knowledge and lyrics of Disney songs I stored away came in handy in a life-or-death situation. (okay…it wasn’t life or death…but it was about survival!)

– After about 20minutes of Disney songs, we were silent, and then I started blanking out/sleepwalking. It was so scary. I would have no idea how long I blanked out for. This happened to Marco at the same time. Not good. We didn’t fall into the canal at least.

– Cold. Temperature at night was probably 55F, felt colder.

– We saw a couple of frogs. Marco didn’t like frogs. This was my chance to be the knight in shining armor instead of the damsel in distress.

– I started hallucinating, seeing things in the dirt like monster-shaped creatures. I wasn’t scared because I knew it wasn’t real. It was a bizarre feeling though.

– I was shivering ever since the sun set. I just had a thin SmartWool long-sleeve shirt on. At Gasport I borrowed a sweatshirt. It helped, even though it was bulky. I was grateful.

– Our goal was to not fall into the canal at this point. We walked real slow. The third loop took maybe 9 hours, or close to it. Major, major props to Marco for sticking by me to make sure bears didn’t come out of the woods.

– Sun finally started to come up around 5:00-5:15, when we almost reached the last two miles. Marco gave me a pep talk and told me that I needed to run with it, that we only had NINE hours left before the 4pm (30 hour cutoff). He knew I wouldn’t fail but I needed to pick up the pace. I ran the last mile into the aid station at the finish. I told Marco to take off and not worry about me, that I was a good “closer.” The middle miles suck but I can make up ground at the end.

Final lap, Miles 76-100, Run Lisa Run!!

– I reached the aid station about 6:45am, stuffed some food in my mouth, and got out of there as fast as my legs could possibly carry me (which wasn’t fast by normal standards).

– No time to take pictures or think of ANYTHING except the growing pain in my hip flexor. This could potentially end my race. I started to breathe deeply so I wouldn’t panic.

– I caught up to Andy around mile 76. We started chatting. I told him I had a bad hip and he told me he had awful blisters. We tried not to grimace too much.

– We tried different strategies, running for 30 steps, running to the next sign post, speed walking, anything to bring our legs closer to the finish.

– When we reached Gasport, I asked for ibuprofen. I was in a lot of pain. I never took ibuprofen during a race before and hoped that it wouldn’t upset my stomach. I downed a Little Debbie Snack cake and a banana and I was on my way.

-At mile 83 the ibuprofen starts working. Andy and I keep speedwalking together until about mile 86. I told him I had to take off or I might not finish if the pain got worse. He totally understood and told me to go.

– The sun is really hot at this point. It felt like 80F. I could feel my nose and shoulders start to burn. No shade anywhere.

-I’m starting to see runners heading for home. “Someday that will be me,” I think. It felt like FOREVER until we reached mile 88, the turnaround point. Longest few miles ever. I jam some headphones in my ears and it almost makes the pain go away.

– I reach the Middleport aid station the last time, thank the wonderful volunteers again, and then turn around for home. I am almost free!

-I reach the Gasport station again, mile 93. I mouth a silent prayer that I am so so close to being done. I eat a tiny bit of food but don’t want anything to upset my stomach.

– Several minutes after I leave the station, “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon comes on my iPod, and I start crying. I KNOW I’m going to finish at this point. The enormity of it all hits me, with 3 hours left on the clock and less than 7 miles to go. No matter how much pain I am in, I can crawl to the finish line if needed.

– The last few miles are absolutely brutal. Every bridge and house looks the same, and the finish line doesn’t seem any closer!

– Finally, I spot the marina where we have almost 2 miles left until the finish. Marco waves and shouts at me from across the water. My spirits pick up a bit.

– Two boats pass and the bridge goes up, darn! Luckily, by the time I make it to the bridge it is down again for pedestrians. I am doing a brisk run at this point, with minimal walking. The last mile, I reflect on everything that happened in the last 28 hours. I almost start to cry again, but then I remember that I don’t want to be a babbling mess when I cross!

– The finish line is within sight. I see the numbers–I’m finishing under 28:30!! I hear cowbells and cheering.

– I cross in 28:23:48. Best moment ever, money can’t buy.Image

Photo credit: Beth Pease

I see Rick, Jim, Beth, Shannon, Valmir (the champion), Marco and many friendly faces cheering for me. I am smiling from ear to ear, all pain forgotten. I take a photo with Sam Pasceri, the race director, and shake his hand as he gives me the silver buckle. Feeling the weight of the prize in my hand is amazing.

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Me and Sam Pasceri with The Buckle.

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Shannon, myself, and Valmir, the champion. He set a course record of 14:58 and cheered for all the runners afterwards! He stayed until the last person finished in 29:50. Major props.

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Never have I ever worked so hard for a finisher award!

It was awesome seeing Rick before he had to head to the airport. Shannon made sure I elevated my feet on a box and got some ice for me. Everyone was asking me what I needed. I didn’t really need much–I had my pride and my buckle, what else could I possibly ask for?

Thanks SO much to the race volunteers, to Jim and Beth for hosting us, and to Sam P and his family for putting on a stellar event. Thanks to Valmir and everyone who cheered at the finish. Most of all, thanks to Marco for sticking by me for 30 plus miles, making sure I didn’t lose sight of the goal and keeping me safe. Thanks to Maniac Andy for keeping me company for 15 plus miles. Thanks to all my friends and teammates for believing in me!

Epilogue:

Post-race, Jim and Beth took me to Duff’s Famous Wings in Buffalo. We got the medium spicy wings, gravy fries and root beer, and it was the perfect post race meal. I could barely walk the first few hours after the race, but then I took a bus and taxi home, stayed in bed and ate my meals, and then I was fine. Monday was especially tough (could barely use the stairs at home), but I was glad to take the day off. I took the 10pm bus that left Buffalo and got back to NYC at 6:15am. I didn’t care, I just took my time and tried to stay relaxed the whole day, after all I put my body through!

Would I do another 100 miler? Ask me in a few months!

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Lululemon Sea Wheeze Half Marathon, 8/11/12 (Vancouver, BC)

I just returned from Vancouver earlier this week from a really awesome inaugural half-marathon, the Lululemon Sea Wheeze! I am a big Lululemon fan because they make nice, comfortable clothes. Since running is such a mental sport, if you feel good about what you’re wearing, you’re more likely to perform well. As soon as I heard about their half-marathon back in January, I immediately signed up and got my friend Amy to register with me. The price was a little steep at $128 CAD, but you do get what you pay for. It includes:

Lulu schwag

–          Limited-edition Sea Wheeze shorts that they mail to you (cream-colored with rainbow polka dots)

–          A reusable race bag with Native (Canadian brand) flip flops with SeaWheeze print

–          An awesome race experience with cheer stations, costumed people and volunteers

–          Admission to a post-race concert by Vancouver band Hey Ocean! and FUN.

–          Sunset yoga on Kits (Kitsilano) beach

–          Cool medal

Sea Wheeze showcase store

The Sea Wheeze showcase store–very picked over by the time I arrived post-race (it was open for 1.5 days)

I was really looking forward to the race expo, because I knew there would be limited-edition product available ONLY at the Sea Wheeze showcase store on race weekend. Unfortunately, I missed the expo completely and first dibs on the stuff due to a 7-hour mechanical delay on Air Canada. It was SO frustrating. I was supposed to arrive at 2:00pm into Vancouver and I didn’t get to my hotel until 9:00pm, completely exhausted from all their shenanigans. I am probably not going to fly them ever again. Luckily, Amy got there mid-day and was able to get me a pair of shorts, when I frantically instructed her to buy me “anything that fits me” under $60. I pretty much knew that the stuff would be picked over by the afternoon since the expo opened at 9:00am. Oh well, next time I’ll get there on Thursday!

The Four Seasons Downtown Vancouver

I got to stay at the Four Seasons in downtown Vancouver with Amy for a ridiculous rate, since she works for them. It was a beautiful hotel only a 10-minute walk to the race start, which made my life so much easier after my flight delays.

I will post a much more detailed part two later, but I just wanted to share some photos below. I’m gearing up for the Beast of Burden Summer 100 this weekend—so nervous but also excited!

Beautiful course along the Seawall in Stanley Park


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Great Cranberry Island 50K, Part 2

Playing in the waters off of Great Cranberry Island

We stayed in the Red House on Great Cranberry Island, which made race morning super convenient. The island is so small that houses are known by their family’s names and colors, and there were no numbers! This made finding our house in the dark somewhat challenging the night before. I woke up feeling rested and ready to tackle the day.

The race director made laminated signs with every runner’s name and tacked them up on telephone poles all along the race course. What a nice personal touch! We were allowed to keep them afterwards. Benny and I had fun trying to find all the names we knew.

Marathon Maniac group pic!

Red house photo!

We headed to the start line and took tons of photos. We had a group shot of the Marathon Maniacs, our house ladies (above), and Maniacs with Gary Allen the race director and head of Crow Athletics. CAW!
After the rendition of the national anthem, we were off! There were 100 of us, plus lots of volunteers and good folks that live on the island and set up their own water stations for us! The scenery was pretty, but we passed it LOTS of times. We started with a 5K out-and-back, then did another 7 circuits of the island (4 mile loops on a 2-mile long road). It was sunny but not TOO hot, although a shortage of shade didn’t help.

I enjoyed seeing my friends out on the course many times. I remembered being thankful for Coca Cola and boiled potatoes served at the aid stations. I was struggling a bit, having already raced an ultra the week before. I just tried to enjoy the experience. I ran with my Oakley sunglasses, which were mostly comfortable but they fogged up at times due to the heat.

Me without my trademark smile due to the heat and pain in my legs

I was so afraid of losing count of my laps! Luckily, there was someone sitting at the finish line who told me when I  had three laps left, so my addled brain at least let me know when I was almost finished. There was also a marathon split, USATF certified so people could use it as a BQ! (I didn’t, but our housemate Dave Holmen did!) My last thoughts before I reached the finish were–“Ouch, this hurts,” and “Why is that camera following me as I’m grimacing?” The official photog, Kevin Morris (who was excellent–he photographed the Olympic T&F Trials), took a good photo of my pained face in the final stretch while riding a golf cart. I didn’t post it here, but you can find it on his website.

So the sweet, sweet reward of finishing was an awesome lobster claw belt buckle/medal, and a pink granite rock from Great Cranberry Island. It’s pretty! I waited at the finish for a bit and saw Amanda Lewis (our housemate) and other Maniacs cross the line. I also ate about four slices of the best watermelon ever to help me cool down.

Me and Pascal at the finish line. It was his first ultra!

Then, it was back “home” to shower and then head out to the famous lobster boil and post-race party in a grassy field by the finish. Every finisher got a whole boiled lobster, corn on the cob, and beer. In case you can’t tell from the photo, it was one of the best dinners of my life.

Me and Jackie enjoying our post-race lobster (Photo from Amanda Lewis)

We sat on logs, enjoyed each other’s company, enjoyed s’mores that Becky brought (thanks Becky!), and watched the sun set. I had to leave before the fireworks because I was being eaten by mosquitoes, but yes, there were fireworks! What a perfect end to the day.

The next morning, we packed up and headed to the dock to play around in the water. Instant ice bath for our feet! I also took a Dave Mari-inspired photo of my lobster medal. He took a great shot of his last year.

Lobster medal with a view of the dock in the background

If you ever get the chance to run this very special race, do it! Thanks to Jackie and my fellow Maniacs for being part of an excellent weekend!


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Looking ahead and Great Cranberry Island 50K, Part 1

As I look back on an awesome year of racing, I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to run in some of the most beautiful parts of the world. Some of my favorites were the Tokyo Marathon, The Miami Marathon, The Big Sur Marathon, The Toronto Goodlife Fitness Marathon, and the Great Cranberry Island 50K. I feel like each of those races deserves a proper blog post with photos, so I’ll post about some of them in the next few weeks in reverse chronological order.

My next three big races are the Sea Wheeze (aka the Lululemon Half Marathon) this weekend in Vancouver, the Beast of Burden Summer 100, and the Ragnar Relay Washington, DC. I’m pretty nervous about the 100-miler. Who goes out and runs 100 miles for fun? I feel mentally prepared but I feel like my body (namely my feet) may betray me. The longest I’ve ever run is 76.1 miles in 24 hours for the Stroehmann Back on my Feet 20in24 race, and I’ve done some other ultras since then. In the meantime, I am looking forward to spending this weekend with my west coast friend (and sorority sister) Amy, just being girly and geeking out to the plethora of Lululemon Athletica products that will surely be waiting for us at the expo. Oh, and the inevitable foodie-ing before and after the race shall be epic.

 Here goes my first race recap:

 Marathon #27 (Ultra #7): The Great Cranberry Island 50K—Cranberry Isles, Maine (Part 1)

Getting to the starting line of this race was a special journey. It all started with my friend Jackie, who ran this race last year on the same day my friends Steve, Michelle and I ran the 20in24 Lone Ranger race. She had rented a house with some other members of the Marathon Maniacs club on this remote island off the coast of Mount Desert Island and took the most spectacular jumping photos. She also mentioned that there was a whole boiled lobster and a belt buckle for every finisher. I was sold.

 

The 2012 edition of the race held a lottery because of its growing popularity—I entered the lottery in December and was informed in February that I was in. Hooray! I knew this was going to be unlike any other race I’ve run. The only thing nagging me was that I had monster back-to-back weekends of racing ultras. I had to do the 24-hour race in Philly again (with the goal of running 59 miles) and then bookend that with an additional 31 miles on a hilly, out-and-back course seven days later. Yes, I am young and foolish. I somehow convinced myself that was a good idea. I managed to finish 59.1 miles in 17:24 for the 20in24 race on 7/14/12, and bowed out early due to aching metatarsals that changed my running form. I had to save my feet for the 50K, and it turned out to be a good decision.

 

Jackie and her friend Caitlin showed up at the crack of dawn to pick up myself and Becky from Becky’s apartment. It is a 9-hour drive from NYC to Bar Harbor, ME, but we stopped for lobster rolls in Portland, ME. Eating good food was our top priority and it was definitely worth the hour we stopped. I had the biggest lobster roll of my life from Fisherman’s Grill. It looked like a typical crab shack but had nearly perfect reviews on Yelp. We were not disappointed. I got the combo, which included the roll and a delicious, creamy bowl of clam chowder. Now I know why this place is featured in Adam Richman’s book (of Man vs. Food fame)!

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This is why I run.

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Next, we stopped at Cranberry Island Kitchen for some yummy whoopee pies, lobster cookies, and Moxie soda. I liked the lemon flavored whoopee with lime crème filling.

Our next stop was Acadia National Park, which I was super excited about. We took many, many jumping pictures.

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We also got to see a mock-up of the Great Cranberry Island 2-mile road where we’d be running back and forth 16 times.

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Our group met up with Paul, Talisa, Steven and Benny, and we dipped our feet in the ice-cold Atlantic Ocean at Sand Beach (yes, original name, I know). We did the 20-mile drive, including a stop at Cadillac Mountain to watch the late afternoon sunlight fade. We had dinner at West Street Café in Bar Harbor—I had the spicy pasta puttanesca with shrimp, lobster bisque, and blueberry soda!

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We rented the Red House on Great Cranberry Island. There are no hotels nor bed and breakfasts on the island, so some locals rent out their houses for the summer season. There was also rustic camping but since I am a buffet for mosquitoes, I was glad not to be camping out. The entire island is only two miles long by one mile wide, and it is a special place where all the locals know each other. There is no police department and no hospital, just a volunteer fire department, one gift shop, a general store and two cafes. Imagine that!! On the morning of the race, Benny and I got up early to walk around and picked up our race packets. We met up in the morning with some of our house mates, including Dave, Amanda, and Pascal. We saw the welcome banner hanging over the dock and grabbed breakfast sandwiches at the Great Cranberry General Store. The race packets were awesome, including a Nike gray tech shirt, our lobster dinner tickets, and personalized race bibs. We also got a glimpse of the beautiful lobster claw medal we would be running for! Stay tuned for part two…

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Wow we’re really here!

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Welcome to my running blog!

Welcome, readers! My name is Lisa, and I am a runner and foodie from NYC. I’ve secretly wanted to start a blog for awhile, and today is the day when I finally took the plunge! It took me ten years of running and 27 marathons and ultras (sometimes I lose count–I actually had to look that up) to say that MAYBE I have gained enough experience to finally blog about it. I have a fabulous sister who also happens to be a great food blogger, and I’ve sung her blog’s praises for the past few years before I jumped on the bandwagon myself. I’ve always enjoyed writing, taking pictures of my travels, and documenting things, and the web seems like a good place to share it all. I live in the most vibrant, diverse city in the world, and yet I am always chasing after more adventures and knowledge that you can only gain as a traveler. I’ll be posting about some of my running experiences, starting from 2012, some of my food adventures, and whatever thoughts come my way.

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Me at the finish line of the Big Sur Marathon, 4/29/12